Why “Free Bird” By Lynyrd Skynyrd Got So Long
via Lynyrd Skynyrd/YouTube
The Story Behind Their Signature Song
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1973 classic hit Free Bird runs well over six minutes except for the single. Sometimes, they run up to 14 minutes or even longer when played live. The album version clocks in at nine minutes and eight seconds. But there’s actually a story behind its development. Gary Rossington shared how as they continued to work on the song, it only got longer and longer.
In an interview with Uncle Joe Benson on the Ultimate Classic Rock Nights radio show, Rossington told the story about how Allen Collins wrote the initial chords and two years later, Ronnie Van Zant still struggled with the track.
“Allen Collins had the chords all written, and he had planned a lot and he was trying to get Ronnie to write lyrics to it. Ronnie thought there was too many chord changes. So it took about two or three weeks of Allen playing the chords around. Then one day [Van Zant] just went, ‘Hey, play that again.’ That’s what he’d do – if something caught his ear, he’d go, ‘Play that a few times.’ But it would really be a half-hour, an hour he’d play it.”
They then came up with the idea for a love song. He revealed:
“With just jamming and playing, it got longer and longer and longer as we played it. At first it didn’t have the end, the long guitar end; it was just the slow love song. Then we came up with the end, and as we practiced every day, it came along.”
Free Bird is undoubtedly a fan favorite and Lynyrd Skynyrd often closed their concerts with this song.